Gaming, Texting, and Text Neck
With so many patients out there who have access to a host of electronic devices for gaming, texting, and internet access, and with handheld tablets and smartphones readily available, proper ergonomics and chiropractic care become even more necessary. Those who bend their head for several hours to text, or to look at smartphone and tablets, can be in for a real “pain in the neck”, so to speak. Though the effects of prolonged looking down go beyond just pain. Those hours of playing mobile games and checking Facebook and Instagram updates can build up to a serious repetitive stress injury.
Even non-gamers, such as those who rely on smartphones to check work e-mails or e-reader users, are at risk of neck and back strain. Additionally, those who have set up their computer monitors or laptop screens to be lower than the recommended eye level height will find their heads leaning forward and tilting downwards to look at the screen for extended periods of time. The result of all this strain is an injury that is known as “text neck”.
Chris Cornett, MD, noted that “they end up holding their neck and upper back in abnormal positions for a long period of time” leading to “postural pain”. The problem comes, ergonomically, from “excessive strain on the spine from looking in a downward position”. In addition to the fact that the spine is not built to be curved so severely for long periods of time, the additional force of gravity that is added to how heavy the head is put more pressure and strain on the spine, which adds up over time. The resulting pain can stress the body and cause headaches and fatigue.
Every motion in this abnormal position continues to put “stress on the neck…beyond just the weight of the head” until a more severe injury begins to develop, even to a point of almost no return to normal spinal posture for some. Even if it does not reach such a severe point, the “text neck” can lead to long-term complaints in the back, especially in the joints and disks.1
If someone wants to text, game, or otherwise use a handheld device, it is important to take breaks and change positions often. It is best if the device is not in the lap; ideally, it should be held up at eye level, with the back kept in a position of proper posture. Overall physical fitness can help. “Having a strong, flexible back and neck” can help with recovering from these stressors.2
Gaming, Texting, and Chiropractic Care and Treatments
Dr. Dean Fishman is the Florida chiropractor who first coined the phrase “text neck”. When seeing a teenage patient with neck pain and headaches, he noticed her posture while she used her smartphone. A human head is about 10 pounds in a neutral position. When tilted, the pressure on the spine doubles for every inch of movement. A smartphone in the lap means that “your neck is holding up what feels like 20 or 30 pounds”.3
Of course, “text neck” is not a completely new ailment to be seen in the medical community. Although it previously did not have such a modern name. People have been reading books for a long time, which is another activity that often has patients sitting in one position and looking down for hours. Even so, the use of electronic devices is usually longer than the time that many people spend reading in one sitting. And it is a concern for growing children who are, for some, more likely to be interested in watching videos online than reading.4
Stretched tissue, for long periods of time, leads to inflammation, and eventually pinched nerves, disk herniations, and muscle strain. In the long run, this can cause a flattening of the “natural curve of your neck”, according to Dr. Tom DiAngelis. 8-18 year-olds are spending about 7 ½ hours daily using “entertainment media”, or the previously noted electronic devices. In addition to the neck and back pain, there is nerve pain and metabolic problems. Slouching can actually “reduce the capacity of your lungs…by 30%”.
People should periodically go for a walk or exercise their shoulders by rolling them. Patients could set reminders on their devices to use a notification popup to remind them to regularly get up to drink some water or stretch for a few minutes.5 In addition, regular chiropractic care and adjustments can help people who are suffering from back and neck pain. Chiropractors can be a great defense against “forward head posture”. There is even an app for “text neck”. The Text Neck Institute developed this app “to remind users when they are, or are not, using good posture”.6
You may want to check our post on Posture Correctors